The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On June 9, 1980, a jury returned a verdict in this civil rights
case in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $1.00 each. On
September 10, 1980, this Court denied plaintiffs' motion for
attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 on the
grounds that, based upon the token amount of the award,
plaintiffs are not truly the "prevailing" parties within the
meaning of the statute. On April 2, 1981, the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals, 646 F.2d 1193 (7th Cir.), reversed and
On remand, the district court should consider whether
any special circumstances exist, and if not, should
decide the appropriate amount of the fee award in
light of these decisions.
The "special circumstances," however, referred to by the
Circuit Court were, in this Court's view, set forth in our June
9, 1980 order:
Plaintiffs sought $200,000 in their complaint. Prior
to trial they would have settled for $3,000 and could
have settled for at least $1,500. The jury apparently
further discounted the value of plaintiffs' claims in
awarding them $1.00 each.
The Circuit Court apparently did not agree that the foregoing
scenario justified a denial by this Court of an award of
attorneys' fees and costs. Therefore, in response to the remand
order it now would be fruitless for this Court to reiterate these
same factors as a basis for "special circumstances." Instead,
pursuant to Circuit Court's opinion, we must now "decide the
appropriate amount of the fee award."
Plaintiffs' counsel request attorneys' fees in the amount of
$10,441.25 and costs of $1,586.12. The Civil Rights Attorney's
Fees Awards Act provides that in civil rights actions under §
1983 and certain other statutes, "the court, in its discretion,
may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee
as part of the costs." 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1976). This discretion
is limited to a degree, in that a successful plaintiff "should
ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances
would render such an award unjust." Newman v. Piggie Park
Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400, 88 S.Ct. 964, 19 L.Ed.2d 1263
(1968); Busche v. Burkee, 649 F.2d 509 (7th Cir. 1981); Murphy v.
Kolovitz, 635 F.2d 662, 663 (7th Cir. 1981). The purpose of the
Act "is to permit and encourage the redress of the civil rights
violations of victims but not to create a civil rights fee bank
to be liberally drawn upon by lawyers for their own welfare," and
the fee award determination is to be based on the totality of the
case in light of the purpose of the Act. Coop v. City of South
Bend, 635 F.2d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 1980).
The task of determining an appropriate award of attorney's fees
in a given case is a complex task involving "the coalescence of
many considerations including the reasonableness of the time
spent by counsel, the extent of counsel's success and the
complexity of the case." Waters v. Wisconsin Steel Works,
502 F.2d 1309, 1322 (7th Cir. 1974). Moreover, attorney's fees are
not to be determined solely on the basis of a formula applying
"hours spent times billing rate," although that may be a
convenient starting point from which adjustments can be made. Id.
Other elements to be considered include the following:
(1) The time and labor required, the novelty and
difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill
requisite to perform the legal service properly.
(2) The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that
the acceptance of the particular employment will
preclude other employment by the lawyer.
(3) The fee customarily charged in the locality for
similar legal services.
(4) The amount involved and the results obtained.
(5) The time limitations imposed by the client or by